Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! We hope that your 2018 is off to a wonderful start! We are looking forward to a meaningful year of worship and fellowship as we continue this faith journey together. The start of a new year often times brings resolutions. When we turn the page on the calendar, we feel as though we have a fresh start. It’s a new opportunity. It’s our chance to make changes and improvements. Many people make New Years Resolutions as the year turns. If you are like me, those resolutions don’t often last. I’ve usually broken most, if not all, of them by the end of January! What if this year as we think about the possibilities ahead, instead of making resolutions, we change our mindset. What if we look at making goals instead. With resolutions, when they are broken, we often forget about them. But goals feel a little different. Even if we fall short, goals seem to give us more of an invitation to try again.

As you are thinking about what you might do differently this year and goals you want to set for yourself or your family, I encourage you to consider including some goals related to faith formation. Perhaps you want to set a goal to memorize more scripture this year or to read through the Bible this year or to make Sunday school a priority this year or to read more faith-based books this year or to look for more opportunities for your family to serve together this year. Those are just a few examples. There are plenty of other goals you could set for yourself. I encourage you to pray about your goals might be. Then feel free to share those goals on the Adventure Kids or Youth Ministry facebook pages so we can encourage one another as we work toward those goals this year!

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Finding Your “Why”

A few years ago at a youth conference one speaker encouraged those in attendance to consider their why. Essentially what he meant, was to remember to be intentional. This has served as a good reminder for me over the years, and has become a way for me to focus my intentions. The speaker encouraged those in attendance to pause before they get out of the car or before a conversation with a teenager and ask, “why am I here?” That simple question serves as a way of focusing ourselves to make the most of every opportunity and to give these opportunities purpose.
We have real opportunities coming up. Our students and children are about to be out of school for a few weeks, and there are opportunities there. There are many things that will fill our calendars over the next few weeks, what is the “why” there? Finding your “why” can take mundane, stressful tasks, and fill them with meaning and purpose. As you go throughout this season, find your why in each situation. Why are you purchasing these gifts for these people? Why are you making time in the middle of everything else to spend time with loved ones? Why is this advent season such a special time for us to be together as a church family?…You can make your own list of why questions, but may the answers to those question drive you, and maybe then we can see this Advent season a little differently.

Sharing the Joy of the Season

As we celebrate the joyous Advent season, I am reminded of our many blessings. We are blessed with loving families, a wonderful church family, a place to live, the opportunity to learn and work…the list goes on. During this time of year, life can be busy. We can get so wrapped up in all of the busyness of the season that we forget that not everyone is so fortunate.

Over these next few weeks as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of Christ, try to take some time as a family to intentionally think of others. We would like to challenge each of our WHBC families to perform at least 3 random acts of kindness throughout the holiday season. These can range from baking cookies for local firemen to leaving change next to a vending machine to delivering a special gift to a neighbor to mailing a card to a friend who could use some encouragement to paying for the person behind you in line at the drive through. The possibilities are endless!

Take some time together as a family to make a list of ideas for intentional acts of kindness that you can do together. Pinterest can be a great source for ideas! Whatever activities you choose, have fun with this as you bless others this holiday season.

Difficult Situations, Difficult Questions

When I (Adam) was a teenager I had your basic, teenage perspective of God. Things in my life were mostly good all the time, I had a loving family, friends, food, shelter, all the necessities. So basically, God just fit into that somewhere, but I couldn’t really tell you where. I am led to believe that’s a pretty normal, natural perspective of God. Honestly, I had probably never really considered where God was exactly in the midst of all that. This seems to be the case until something happens that causes us to wonder- to step back and ask, “well, God, where were you then?”

We all end up facing this question at some point or another, whether it’s when we are a child, teenager, or adult. Something happens that disrupts the equilibrium of our understanding of God and suddenly there seem to be more questions than answers. For me this happen when I was in high school. I had two people close to me die in unexpected ways that didn’t fit into my box of how God worked. So there I was, 15 and wondering where in the world God was in the midst of this mess.

What do we do when that happens to our kid? What happens when that’s my son or daughter that is asking that question? That can be a really scary time that I don’t think any of us are really quite ready for. I don’t claim to have all the answers to that, but I can speak from my experience and offer some good questions that will help our children explore this on their own.

For me, what worked was finally having somebody tell me it was ok to be mad at God. As strange as it sounds, I found peace and rest in knowing that I could be mad at God, because the reality was that God was mad at this tragic situation too. God was on my side, not against me. God truly was Emmanuel- God with us.

My advice in these difficult situations is to help students find that truth and to help them trust God again and believe that God is good. Help them see again that God is with them- God’s heart breaks with their heart break, God’s joy exudes with their joy, and so on. From that basic framework, here are some good questions from “Sticky Faith” to help start those difficult conversations.

 

-What would it look like to trust God in this situation?

-If you were trusting in God, what you would say? What would you do?

-What would it look like to doubt God in this situation? Is that bad?

-What do you suppose God would say to you about this?

-How does it make you feel to recognize that God is with you in this situation?

 

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is every question perfect for every situation, but I think these are good conversation starters. These are good questions for starting the conversation and the healing process. One of the great things about church families is that in the times when these questions arise, we know that we do not walk alone. We walk alongside one another through the most joyous times to the darkest days of our lives and everything in between. That’s part of being family. So, whatever it is that you are facing, know that you are not alone, and you have a group to always come home to at West Hills.

Why “How was your day?” Isn’t the Best Question

At the end of the day as parents we often ask our children about their day. The temptation is to ask them, “How was your day?” If you have ever done this before, you probably know that this question often leaves you with one-word responses and isn’t really good for starting a conversation. I’ve seen a number of different lists of alternative ways to ask your child about his or her day or get them involved in conversation. Here are some of my favorite ideas found from various blogs.

  1. Tell me about today’s “thorn” (a not-great thing that happened) at school.
  2. Now tell me about the “rose” (the best thing that happened).
  3. Was it a “play with your friends at recess” kind of day? Or a “chill by yourself on the swings” kind of day?
  4. You had art/music/computer today, right? What kind of project are you working on?
  5. Tell me something kind that you did for someone today.
  6. Tell me something kind that someone else did for you.
  7. How many stars would you give the cafeteria food today?
  8. Did your friends get along really well today?
  9. If you could have one subject all day, what would it be?
  10. If we had a time machine that went back one day, would you change anything about today?
  11. If you had $20 to do anything you wanted with, what would you buy?
  12. Describe your dream vacation.
  13. What qualities make a good friend?
  14. If you could make your own movie, what would you call it?
  15. If you could be invisible for one day, what would you do?

Give some of these a try in the car or around the dinner table this week, and see if you can spark some fun conversations!

Making Faith Stick

A few years ago, I (Adam) attended a youth conference in Atlanta where youth ministry leaders and visionaries from all over the world congregated to lead breakout sessions, keynote talks, and question and answer sessions. At that conference, I was introduced to a newer youth ministry research organization called Sticky Faith that was based out of the Fuller Youth Institute. They set out in their research to find what are the things that make faith stick in teenagers beyond their high school years. This was a timely subject then and probably even more so now as the research shows that teenagers are losing their faith at a higher rate now after they graduate than ever before. It’s difficult to identify why this is happening exactly, but there are some things that were really interesting about what helps faith stick in teenagers.

In one of the big group session there was a speaker from Sticky Faith named Kara Powell. She gave a great talk, but there was one statistic that she gave that has stuck with me. She said that teenagers need to know that they are loved and cared for no matter what by at least five adults or that teenager is considered an at risk teen. At risk teen to not only losing their faith but to drug usage, teenage pregnancy, high school drop out, etc. I couldn’t believe that. All it takes is five adults that the teenager knows cares about them and loves them no matter what they do. That group of five adults can include parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, ministers, coaches, teachers, etc., but teenagers need people in their lives that they know love and care for them no matter what.

This week, find some time to ask your teenagers and children who the people are they know love and care for them no matter what. This could be a great opportunity to talk about who some of those people are in their lives that they may not see this way. Do the same thing with your soon to be teenagers. This is a great conversation to have at any age so that our children and youth know how much they are loved and cared for. My hope and prayer is that your children and youth know that West Hills Baptist Church is a place where they can be heard and where they are loved and cared for, and that there is always an open door to talk about any and all of life’s joys, triumphs, hurts, and sorrows.

Family Fun

Finding time to do fun things as a family can be difficult in today’s society. Between homework and extra-curricular activities for the kids and work and other commitments for parents, life is busy. When you do have time, it can sometimes be hard to decide what to do together. Your challenge this week is to brainstorm together as a family about fun things you would like to do. Then take those ideas and create a Family Fun Jar.

All you have to do is take an empty Mason jar or some other kind of cup or container and fill it with the ideas you come up with together. It can be as fancy or as simple as you would like. You can leave the jar plain, or you can decorate it with ribbon or paper. Then write your ideas on popsicle sticks or pieces of paper, and place them inside. I like to use popsicle sticks. If you need some, we are happy to share some from the supply closet.

Below you will find some examples of ideas to help you get started. It’s fun to add in some service opportunities that you can do together as well. Don’t limit yourself to this list. Be sure to make your activities things that you enjoy doing together as a family! Every family is different, so each jar should be unique. And when your jar is finished, plan a time to choose an activity to enjoy together soon.

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